Hardware Review: Evercade Retro Games Console

A delightful edition to the retro gaming console lineup has arrived!

By Robert Marrujo. Posted 07/08/2020 03:47 Comment on this     ShareThis
The Final Grade
Editor's Choice
grade/score info
1-Up Mushroom for...
Solid build; buttons and D-pad are premium feeling; tons of games, with each cartridge offering great compilations of various classics; tons of replay value
Poison Mushroom for...
Tight cartridge slot; button mapping only available via firmware update; UI is a little bland

Retro hardware is a hot commodity among gamers these days. From the original, genuine article consoles to modernized rigs like Analogue’s Super Nt to miniaturized replica’s such as Sega Genesis mini, the market is ablaze with interest in the video games of yesterday. With good reason—excellent game design never gets stale, which makes returning to these golden oldies quite appealing. With so many options available to consumers, it takes something different and bold to stand out among the crowd. Thanks to a solid build and ease of use, as well as an engaging collection of games, Evercade has managed to do exactly that.

Evercade is manufactured by Blaze Entertainment, a company that specializes in retro hardware and merchandise. With Evercade, the company’s mission statement has been to produce a console that emulates the fun and simplicity of the systems of yore. All Evercade games are on cartridges and no Internet connection is required to play. The games are all compilations of titles from a single developer’s catalog and come in special collector’s packaging with full-color, intricate instruction manuals (remember those?). Evercade can even be connected to an external screen via HDMI, not unlike a Switch. From the outset, Evercade sounded like a dream come true for retro enthusiasts, and in execution it is indeed a worthwhile way to play some classic software, albeit with a couple caveats.

I ordered the black Premium Edition of Evercade from UK retailer Funstock, which was limited to 3,000 units. The bundle came with three compilations: Namco Museum Collection 1, Interplay Collection 1, and Atari Collection 1. Combined, I had a total of 37 different games to play, which was an excellent way of breaking in the console. Evercade is a portable system, but it isn’t shy about filling every inch of a pocket—the unit is roughly the size of a 3DS XL (give or take a couple of inches). The LCD screen is an ample 480×272 (the same as a PlayStation Portable) and is accompanied with a rounded, large D-pad, four face buttons, two shoulder buttons, and three navigation buttons (Menu, Start, and Select).

The Evercade also comes with a Micro-USB charging cable to power the console’s 2000mAh battery. There’s a standard 35mm headphone jack, but if you’re depending on the external speakers they’re actually pretty good, achieving a solid level of loudness to keep players engaged. Volume is handled via buttons on the bottom of the unit, which I’ve never been the biggest fan of, but they work well here. At the top of the unit is the power button and the HDMI port which allows an Evercade to connect to play on a TV (at a resolution of 720p). Overall, the build quality here is sublime. The plastic finish of the outer shell feels great while being held, while the buttons have a satisfying level of travel. Nothing is too clicky or squishy—premium all the way.

If there is any blemish here, it’s the cartridge slot. Games insert very tightly into the unit and require some real elbow grease to remove. So much so that I worried about damaging the Evercade itself the first time that I both put in and removed a cartridge from the device. In fairness, Evercade has been acknowledging this quirk both on its social media accounts and with an instructional video by saying that repeated insertion and removal of the games will loosen the slot and make the whole operation easier over time. That’s fair enough, but it’s still disappointing that such an obvious flaw would slip by without notice prior to producing this first wave of the console. That said, COVID-19 landed smack in the middle of Evercade’s production and release, so it’s possible that Blaze was backed into a corner and did the best it could given the circumstances. I haven’t had any damage occur as a result of the cartridges, so I’m hoping that over time my own console’s slot will expand and this will be but a memory.

The 4.3” screen is great. Players can choose between 4:3 or 16:9 aspect ratios, with the former being the native and optimal way of viewing all of the classic titles in the numerous compilation packs on offer. I found the brightness of Evercade’s screen perfect for viewing, and all told I tend to squeak out between four to six hours of playtime from the unit before requiring another charge. The width of an Evercade also makes it very comfortable to hold over extended play sessions, which is another boon of the console. Overall, Evercade manages to feel every bit like a proper, solid video game handheld without requiring a premium price tag. My only other gripe is the limited color selection. Handhelds are prone to getting dirty over time by their nature as on-the-go gaming devices, so I’m a bit perplexed why white was made the default color choice. For the 3,000 of us that snagged black it’s less of an issue (although the back of the unit is still white), but for everyone else hopefully that pretty, white shell doesn’t start to turn yellow very quickly.

The games themselves are the other pivotal part of the equation here, and they similarly satisfy… for the most part. Here are the ten compilations available as of this writing, along with two more which are now available for preorder:

  1. Atari Collection 1
  2. Atari Collection 2
  3. Atari Lynx Collection 1
  4. Atari Lynx Collection 2
  5. Namco Museum Collection 1
  6. Namco Museum Collection 2
  7. Interplay Collection 1
  8. Interplay Collection 2
  9. Data East Collection 1
  10. Mega Cat Studios Collection 1
  11. The Oliver Twins Collection
  12. Xeno Crisis and Tanglewood

There’s no set number of games offered in each collection, but they all provide a reasonable amount of content that should keep the average player busy for hours on end. What’s most exciting about these compilations are the various rarities to enjoy. Ninja Golf, Metal Marines, River City Ransom, and Magical Drop II are among some of the delightful highlights here. There’s more mainstream stuff to partake in, as well, such as Pac-Man, Dig Dug, Earthworm Jim, and Double Dragon. Cumulatively, Evercade’s slate of software is very impressive.

The only sticking point for some might be the selection offered on each cartridge, but this is going to boil down to personal tastes. I’ve enjoyed experimenting with the games I’ve never played before, and the ones I am interested in have made it worthwhile to boot up my Evercade whenever the mood should strike. A stray pundit or two has claimed that some of these games are “filler.” which I absolutely disagree with—I don’t see how anyone can assert that any game here has more merit over another. If you’re worried about content, hit this link and see which games are on offer for yourself. The boxes themselves have a decent heft and size, and the instruction manuals are well designed. However, the font is unreasonably small at times. which can make the manuals difficult to read. Still, squinting through the leaflets is worth the effort to see the controls for each game as well as learn a bit of history about them.

Evercade is true to its word in that booting up a game to play is practically instantaneous. After a quick fanfare plays (it’s catchy!), the UI appears, which is a standard menu screen displaying which games can be played. Make a selection and then A to begin. I would’ve appreciated some sort of tone or feedback to show my selection has registered, but otherwise the operation is smooth and seamless. Once in-game, players can tap the Menu button to bring up save states or change the screen’s aspect ratio. The features are accessible with all cartridges, so it’s easy to do no matter which compilation is being played at a given moment. It’s not the prettiest UI, but it works.

At launch it wasn’t possible to remap the buttons on Evercade, which could make playing certain games awkward. There is now a firmware update which players can opt to download, but there’s a couple of points of contention here worth mentioning. For one thing, part of the draw of Evercade is not needing Internet access, but that doesn’t extend to a firmware update, and in this case one which will be essential for many players. It might sound like a small gripe, but it’s exacerbated by the less than user-friendly steps to get everything installed and downloaded. It’s hard to be an outright Luddite in this day and age, but it’s another oversight that could have been caught prior to launch but sadly wasn’t. I would be remiss if I failed to note that the folks at Blaze have been incredibly open and honest with the community from the outset, and all of the issues I’ve discussed here (including an audio quirk which I didn’t experience) are part of a support page that fans can head to for assistance at any time.

I’ll close this review out by saying that any of the issues I’ve described with this first iteration of Evercade pale in comparison to how much the console gets right. Evercade isn’t a by-the-numbers retro machine. The team at Blaze has worked hard to bring a system to market that is as easy and fun to use as any of the old classics. It doesn’t have the longest battery life, it might lack multiplayer, but at the end of the day if you’re here for classic, retro video games, Evercade is off to a wonderful start. Nintendo fans will likely appreciate the abundance of games that have been featured on the company’s various consoles (indeed, much of the emulation is coming from NES ports, among other systems like Sega Genesis and so on). Games like Super Mario Bros. and The Legend of Zelda aren’t likely to ever land on Evercade, but it’s not stopping Blaze from producing compilations featuring other legendary pieces of software that the Nintendo faithful is sorely missing on Switch. Blaze is promising more compilations in the future, including some arcade releases, so hopes are high that this act of preservation continues to grow and ensnare more and more fans. I wholeheartedly recommend giving Evercade an order.

Speaking of ordering, note that Evercade is available by mail order only at this time. Please go to this link to find your country and see which retailers can fulfill your order. If you’re ordering in the US, please be aware that Funstock is more than capable of handling orders of Evercade if you’re feeling wary about utilizing Amazon.

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